Not every video game comes together perfectly, as the most disappointing games of 2021 demonstrate. These games aren’t bad, per se — most of them are perfectly playable, and have a few good ideas going for them. But whether it’s the gameplay, the story or the level of polish, something about them simply doesn’t work. It’s easy to make fun of reprehensible shovelware; it’s tougher to take a critical eye to games that we really, really wanted to like.
One interesting thing to note: Some of the games on our “most disappointing” list may also show up on our “best games” or “games you missed” stories. Some of our writers adored these games, and some couldn’t stand them. As such, if any of the games on this list look promising, you might want to check them out. Read on for our most disappointing games of 2021 — and remember that disappointment is a relative thing!
The higher the hype, the harder the fall. Battlefield 2042 is most definitely proof of that. Finally returning to the series to a highly requested modern setting, there was significant anticipation going into 2042, but the game failed to meet those expectations quite spectacularly.
The online-only shooter can be fairly enjoyable in bursts, but you’re constantly fighting the game to find these moments. The core shooting remains hugely unsatisfying even after several post-launch patches designed to improve it, and the seven maps are still a hugely underwhelming bunch. The sluggish menus and cluttered UI haven’t been fixed either.
At least the Battlefield Portal mode, which offers content from classic games in the franchise, is still pretty fun and new offering Hazard Zone has its moment, even if it doesn’t feel like Battlefield at all. Dice swung for the fences with Battlefield 2042 but the final product badly missed the mark. - Rory Mellon
Biomutant was a game that initially received a lot of hype on social media, and I understand why. You get to play as a furry anthropomorphic rodent who uses kung fu to take on other critters in a devastated post-apocalyptic land. Plus, its high level of character customization and vast skill tree options allow players to build a creature to their liking.
While Biomutant has a weird charm, it is riddled with a number of bugs and glitches that mar the overall presentation. The characters’ in-game dialogue gets grating fast since they speak in an odd made-up language. This wouldn’t be so bad if cutscenes didn’t last so long or if said language didn’t sound so grating.
There are even more issues I had with the game but let's keep this brief: you’re free to skip Biomutant. – Tony Polanco
Diablo II: Resurrected
Diablo II: Resurrected is a perfect example of why Tom’s Guide catalogs the year’s “most disappointing” games rather than its “worst” games. Taken on its own merits, Diablo II: Resurrected is a perfectly good time, faithfully updating a classic PC RPG for modern systems. On the other hand, that’s just about all it does. Every clunky, poorly aged system in the game, from inventory management to labyrinthine character-building, is perfectly preserved, just as you remember it.
There’s still a lot to like about Diablo II: Resurrected. The “click, fight, loot” gameplay system is as addicting as ever, the updated graphics look gorgeous and the story is still a cut above most hack-and-slash fare. However, Blizzard missed a real opportunity to revamp the game with 20 years’ worth of improvements to the genre. Diablo II: Resurrected reminds us that nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. — Marshall Honorof
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition
Although you can't really tell from the image above, the bundled remasters of GTA III, GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas are hardly the "definitive" versions of these games as claimed.
If you somehow missed the couple of weeks that the Internet went wild on this game, let me explain. The process of upscaling textures for the game, some of it apparently automated, led to all sorts of weird visuals, creating unintentionally alien-looking characters, or strange typos on in-game signage. That's not to mention other widely-reported issues like frame rate drops, physics glitches or outright crashes.
The reamstering process did some good to the games' lighting and controls, but they are hard to appreciate when the rest of the game is so ugly and unreliable. Whether it's acting as an introduction to these classic open-world crime games, or a nostalgia trip, the Definitive Edition is a bad way to experience it. – Richard Priday
Halo Infinite Multiplayer
I love Halo Infinite’s campaign. It’s not perfect, but switching to an open world format and letting Master Chief explore (part of) Zeta Halo was absolutely the right move. However I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with some of the decisions surrounding multiplayer.
As soon as the multiplayer mode launched, it was obvious what the problem was. Not only was Infinite’s challenge-based progression system making it quite difficult to level up, there weren’t very many playlists to choose from, and game mode was selected at random. Not to mention all the basic customization options that were locked behind a paywall.
To its credit, Halo developer 343 Industries has been listening to player feedback and making changes, including better progression and new playlists. But considering Halo has had online multiplayer since 2004, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer shouldn’t have been so stripped down. — Tom Pritchard
Marvel's Avengers: War for Wakanda
Marvel’s Avengers never quite figured out whether it was a single-player game with optional high-level multiplayer, or a multiplayer game with a single-player intro. However, the game’s main campaign was pretty good, and I hoped that Marvel’s Avengers: War for Wakanda would play to the same strengths. For the most part, though, it doesn’t.
War for Wakanda introduces Black Panther as a playable character, and his unique skill set is worth checking out. Apart from that, though, the expansion tells a rote, forgettable story through a series of aimless levels and trite puzzles. Fighting run-of-the-mill enemies feels repetitive; fighting bosses can be downright excruciating. The staid voice acting doesn’t help much, nor does the forgettable music. The expansion is free, at least, but your time is worth something, too. — Marshall Honorof
I’m a fan of puzzle games so I downloaded Maquette when it was released earlier this year. This is a weird blurb to write because the puzzles that form the core gameplay are very well done. I haven’t played a game that toyed with perspective like this in a long time. That part is fun. Unfortunately, the narrative (told via disembodied voices) gets in the way of an otherwise enjoyable experience. I’m avoiding spoilers here but the story is needlessly depressive for a puzzle game. I understand what the devs were going for but it simply didn’t work for me. It’s a shame because Maquette could have been a small (pun intended) sleeper hit. – Tony Polanco
New Pokémon Snap
As a remake of 1999’s classic, New Pokemon Snap did an excellent job rekindling our childhood nostalgia. Not to mention the absolute pleasure it was to have the opportunity to observe how some of the newer Pokemon interact within their natural habitats. Unfortunately, there’s not much more to say about the game.
Considering how short every level is, it’s annoying that one of the game’s core mechanics revolves around repeating each stage numerous times before you can finally unlock something new. The plot itself is bland too, offering nothing to keep you engaged throughout the story. As I mentioned in my New Pokémon Snap review, my biggest gripe is that despite its shortcomings, Nintendo still sells it for $59.99. Sure, the game was fun to try for a few days. But if you were to ask me whether this mini experience is worth the same price as other Nintendo Switch best-selling games, the answer would be a resounding no. — Denise Primbet
Outriders had all the ingredients to make it a success. It has solid cover-based third-person shooting mechanics and its magic-based abilities add a level of flair to what could’ve been a standard action game. Even its story about the last remnants of humanity fighting each other on a hostile alien planet has promise. Unfortunately, none of its elements come together gracefully – nor are they delivered in a compelling manner.
The game feels like the equivalent of a made-for-TV SyFy film with stale line delivery and predictable plot threads. A solid co-op experience would have helped but the bland level designs and dumb enemy AI even make playing with friends a chore. Perhaps a sequel (if one gets made) could remedy these issues. As things stand, Outriders is a forgettable game. – Tony Polanco
It’s oddly fitting that Twelve Minutes focuses on a man stuck in a time-loop because playing it made me feel like I was trapped in purgatory doomed to repeat the same mundane tasks for eternity.
While it does offer a star-stuffed voice cast, featuring the talents of James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe, the dialogue is all too often stilted and unnatural. This is a fairly large problem as the entire game hangs on its narrative. The rudimentary point-and-click gameplay is really just a vehicle to tell the main story and gets old after the first dozen minutes.
Even if you can tolerate the shaky dialogue, clunky animations and repetitive structure, Twelve Minutes builds to a pretty ridiculous climax with a twist that feels unearned and aims for cheap shock value. Put simply, Twelve Minutes is a complete time-waster. - Rory Mellon